Twenty-four hours after Central Christian College’s 81-71 men’s basketball victory over McPherson College in the annual intracity showdown, the buzz about town wasn’t about the three monster dunks that the Tigers’ Alonzo Stafford threw down.
It was the one he missed that had water cooler talk and barber shop scuttlebutt going hot and heavy.
For the many of you who were at the game — Alexander Arena on the campus of Central Christian College was packed and electric — you know the play I’m talking about. I’ve had several people talk to me about it and email me, still can’t believing what they just saw.
It occurred during the first half. The Tigers ran a set play for a lob to the 6-6 junior redshirt from Houston. I could see the play developing and I was awestruck as the half-man, half-amazing Stafford climbed the imaginary ladder. He kept going higher and higher, so high that I thought he was going to hit his head on the gym ceiling.
One person at the game told me that he had an eye-level view of the play as he sat high in the stands and SWEARS that Stafford’s head and shoulders were ABOVE the rim. The problem was that Stafford was so high that he couldn’t look down and locate the rim.
Even though he missed the shot, the play got the Central crowd back into the game and it wasn’t soon after that Stafford gave the Tiger faithful their money’s worth with some rim-rattlers that sparked CCC to the victory.
This intracity matchup never disappoints. The Bulldogs started the game as though they were going to run away and hide, scoring seven points before the Tigers even got a sniff of a tally. Mac continued to hold a decent lead for most of the first half, but a desperation 27-footer by Stafford at the halftime buzzer drew Central within a deuce at 34-32.
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to assume command as they dissected the McPherson College interior. They were getting contributions not just from Stafford and the other starters, but their bench brigade — led by Sam Clayborn, Jerome Jackson and Ernest Burton. In fact in the deciding run that pushed the Tigers’ lead to double digits, it was that trio that provided the impetus.
Tony Romero’s coaching job at Central has been nothing short of sensational. It is the gold-standard program at the school and one reason he recently was awarded with a three-year contract extension as the CCC brass knows it has somebody special at the helm and wants to keep him as long as it can.
Romero has averaged just under 20 wins a season at Central, which is remarkable when you consider the Tigers butt heads on a nightly basis against tremendous teams from the powerful MCAC, one of the top three conferences in the country.
His team is experienced and deep. The Tigers are long and athletic and they are fun to watch. Daniel Nwosuh can control a game at the point, Michael Gholston is one of the best NAIA talents in Kansas and Stafford is a one-man highlight film. Add in rugged Chris Quincy and the streak-shooting Dustin Rojas and it’s a starting five that can play with anybody. If Romero’s bench can develop quickly, CCC will challenge for the MCAC title.
Central, however, dearly wants to join the KCAC, which is looking for a 12th and nonplaying football school. Central, which doesn’t have football, already plays several KCAC schools in other sports and the biggest factor is it would save the school thousands in travel expenses. The Tigers rack up a lot of miles on their van traveling to MCAC schools in Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Nebraska. It sure would be nice for them to drive to venues such as North Newton, Hillsboro, Sterling, Salina, Lindsborg, Wichita and, of course, the 5-minute trip across town to McPherson College.
My guess is the KCAC simply doesn’t want two schools from the same town in the conference. I’ve heard that Park University (near Kansas City) and Avila (also near Kansas City) are schools being considered the most.
Central’s men get another chance tonight at a KCAC school when they go to Bethel, the first of a home-and-home series. The Tigers later have a home-and-home with Friends. This is a great opportunity for Central to showcase what it can do for the KCAC brass.